Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A Bit Rocky

Britain has snow! Woohoo! Now I keep loading up the weather forecast to see if we're getting any more. Not yet apparently.
There are some wonderful pics on the Graun's webbie, and I particularly like the one of Westminster Bridge.

There's a very good article on alternet about Sarah Palin's brand of feminism. It's brilliant. Anything you can't achieve or can't seem to change, like equal pay, or sexual violence, it's because you're just not capable and strong enough.
Backwards argument from a position of privilege.

Tomorrow is the beginning of Hanukkah, which continues for eight days. I intend to wish people a Happy Hanukkah throughout, but not because I'm being inclusive. Well, I am, but not in a good way, it's an attempt to share the hijacking.
I am squinting from a different angle at this.

You often get people here being all bent out of shape because other people get arsey about being wished a Merry Christmas, and fair enough, not to labour the point, but separation of Church and State and so on. Yes, I used to think that it was the non-Christians who were being put out by it. But in fact, I've realised it's the Christians who are being disrespected.
Forget the over-commercialisation of Christmas, the real problem is the complete denial that it has anything to do with Christianity.

This morning, Alex reminded me that last year, one of her friends simply didn't celebrate Christmas. He said he didn't want to encourage pointless present giving, that he ate nice food all year round, and that since he isn't a Christian, there was in fact no reason for him to celebrate their festival.
And I respect that, I respect it a lot.

She also pointed out to me that it's nice to have the trees lit up in December, and that day when the whole nation stays home and does more or less the same thing, and I agree.
But for the next eight days, I'm going to encourage the hijacking of Judaism. I mean, it's happening anyway, everyone has a Menorah these days, and it occurred to me last Sunday, when we were singing about Israel's Redeemer, that we had pretty well hijacked a big chunk of their faith anyway.
Although it's St. Andrew's day today, I already practised on the Salvation Army collector outside of Shopper's Drug Mart.

When we get to Christmas, Midnight Mass this year is going to have a mediaeval theme. But Alex and I were thinking, well, we don't really want to dress up in Mediaeval garb, we think we'll go Rocky Horror Show. No-one could object to that surely?

Sunday, 28 November 2010


Like I said, in reality, the snow has gone. As it has melted at the park over the road, it turns out that the pathways are littered with dog poo. What did people think would happen to frozen poo? That unlike frozen food, it would break down and disappear?

First Sunday in Advent. Last week however, our church recorded Silent Night and put it on YouTube. Laurence is so much taller than everyone else. Djembe alert.

The Guardian e-mailed me to tell me about the U.S. Embassy Cable Wikileaks. Oh my.

The book, 'Room', turned out not to be too horrible after the people had escaped. An effective technique though, since I found it depressing to the end.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Slush Puppy

The snow has mostly been cleared by the rain, although before it was, the intersection outside our house, where people at the best of times behave like idiots, was a skating rink. Kevin went out and threw some salt on it, and in my opinion, probably saved lives.
The trail behind the houses, clearly peat bog, which acts like a refrigerator, still has snow, so Whisky can still leap through it like a hare, the slush he likes not so much.

Black Friday. I can understand Canadians being more than familiar with this term, thousands cross the border to take advantage of bargains in the States that technically they can't bring back unless they pay the tax.
Last year, our local crossing had queues that had to wait six hours to cross. This year, when Kevin checked at seven, the border was clear.
Canadian stores have sales to try to keep dollars in Canada.
But today, I received an e-mail from a British firm advertising Black Friday sales. Bizarre and somehow quite wrong.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail forward from a relly, claiming that 75% of Canadians believe the word 'God' should stay in the National Anthem. I don't even vaguely believe this. I don't think that if you asked the members of my church you'd get 75% who think the National Anthem should mention God.
For Britain, of course, reasonable, the Queen is the head of the Church of England, for Canada, separation of Church and State, so wtf?

At the breakfast I went to yesterday, there was an 'invocation', carefully distanced from 'prayer'. Yet God was still mentioned. Well I'm sorry campers, but if God is mentioned, then it's a prayer. Oh yes, I know I've just mentioned God and it wasn't a prayer, just a sentence, but if you're all standing around being quiet and bowing your heads, and someone asks God for something, or thanks God for something, I remember not which, then it's a prayer.

I'm now waiting, just WAITING for some complete twonk, to tell me that when they say 'God' they don't mean God, they mean a neutral term for ....for what? A neutral term for some Being who may or may not be a Being and who may or may not exist. What? Do atheists ask or thank God for stuff, but not in an actual God-God way?

Some people need to sort themselves out and start thinking about what they say.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Epic Snow

Even more epic snow is falling. It was at six this morning too. My friend had invited me to her Rotary club's breakfast meeting and she was collecting me at 6.20. Getting up at quarter to six was no fun at all. Driving through the snow at 6.30 was - especially since I wasn't doing the driving. It's still coming down now. It feels warmer than the past couple of days though.

On the news earlier in the week, they were asking people not to call 911 to tell the police about the snow. In fact, really, there's not much point calling 911 to tell the police if there was some unusual weather condition, but for pity's sake people, look at the flags outside your doors, on your Macdonald's sign, on store fronts, on the money, this is Canada - it snows, granted not usually so much in this part of Canada, but it's not a phenomenon.

Monday, 22 November 2010


I frequently complain that it isn't cold enough. Well, it's cold enough. With the wind chill factor it's been down to -10º. Outside, it feels as though the wind is sawing the skin off your face.

Whilst watching 'House' (Crucifixion) I realised my freezer is stuffed with loaves and fishes. Also cranberries, but that doesn't really fit the theme.

I'm really not enjoying the book I'm currently reading, from this year's Booker shortlist, 'Room' by Emma Donaghue. It's about a mother and child trapped in a room by the woman's kidnapper and abuser and it's told through the child's perception. Grim and not yet engaging, yet for some unfathomable reason I feel compelled to keep reading because, in spite of it having been cheaper, I have it as an e-book. I'm not sure how that works. I'd have abandoned it in paperback by now.
I have just finished Lori Lansens' glorious, 'The Girls'. Difficult to put down. New one, difficult to pick up. I should have chosen Andrea Levy's 'The Long Song' instead. I will next time.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Snow Dog

Friday, 19 November 2010

And we have snow

Thursday, 18 November 2010


Strange weather.
This morning, bright and sunny, Alex and I went for early morning coffee in Steveston. Halfway through the morning, the sky clouded over and it started to rain, cold and possibly a little sleety.

Seth has flown back to England today. He will be missed. I would like to be a fly on the wall at his parents' home in Wiltshire tomorrow though, since he hasn't told them he's arriving back.
Kevin told us that one of his university friends surprised his parents like this once. There was a secret way of unlocking the back door without a key, which he did, and REALLY surprised the new family that was living there since his parents moved.

Laurence has been laid off work. One of the three branches in Richmond has closed and so they had too many staff. Bummer. He's fairly upbeat about it at the moment, but time wears you down. Hopefully he'll get a new job quickly.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Gap

I love that, as the weather kills off every other plant in the garden, a rose manages to bloom.
Somehow it has to be symbolic.

This year's Gender Gap Report has just been released.
The good news for Canada and the USA are that they have both gone up from last year, a whopping twelve places for my friends in Obama's USA. Five places for Canadian women. The gender gap in the UK has stayed the same, Britain is still in fifteenth place, nonetheless, still ahead of the USA in 19th position, and Canada at number 20. France, has shockingly plummeted to 46th from 18th position last year.

The National News this morning was all about a skating contest, 'Battle of the Blades', and the engagement of Katherine Middleton and Prince William. This news was so shocking that it rendered everyone incapable of using the English language. The newscaster came out with the word 'exuberation' and a delightful old lovey who is fluent in all Royals, told us that they would probably create a dukedom out of William, which has the kind of surreal quality one welcomes at this time of year.
He also told us that the name 'Kate' was a media invention and that she is always called Katherine by actual people. So the newscaster continued to refer to her as Kate.
Ignorance is bliss and bliss can be maintained by ignoring what people say to you.
Anyhoo, back in Britain, everyone seems delighted. Quite the item to lift the mood from gloomy to merely cynical.

I was pleased to see that an adoption advisor who had been dismissed from her post with Northampton County Council because she refused to place children with same sex couples on 'religious grounds' has been told to take a running jump. The courts weren't having any when she took the employer to a tribunal.

Some things, bigotry for example, really should be killed off by the frost.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Good News and Grimoires

Good news numbero uno. Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest.This should have had the same impact as Nelson Mandela's release in 1990, and yet hasn't somehow. The world waits, but at least both Pres Obama and UN Bloke-in-charge Ban Ki Moon have both made the right noises.

Good news numero dos. Some time ago I blogged about a bunch of homophobic, misogynistic bigots in the Diocese of New Westminster, (ours), who thought that they could squat in the Anglican churches they were already infesting and in fact actually own those buildings. The court said, no you can't. They appealed, and now, happily, their appeal has been turned down.
Jolly good show you lot, now piss off back to the Appellations where you belong.

Sadly of course, the Catlicks'll probably have to have them. Now, I had this discussion with my Sarah Palin-loving friend last week.
Her view is that this type of 'Christian' should just realise that the church of Rome exists for just such a delightful bunch as they.
The Pope seems to think this too.
I of course have joked about this, but the reality is that there are a great many forward-thinkers in the Catholic church, and it's their church, so it has just as much right and in fact duty, to give the full body swerve to Anglican rejects and move forward with its own reforms.

Reduce, re-use, recycle. The Catholic church is not everyone's garbage bin, even if it still contains quite a bit of useless rubbish and worse.

I really wanted to get on to the Grimoire however. I was trying to research whether it was safe to transplant my flat leaf parsley from the front patch to the back balcony. I can't quite make up my mind whether it's bad luck only in Devonshire, or bad luck in general.
No matter.
I have discovered Kereena's Grimoire, which I feel will greatly expand my repertoire of strategies for dealing with nuisances. At the moment I'm relying heavily on sticking pins into effigies, and frankly, my heart's not entirely in it.

Eventually, I'd like to have my own Grimoire. I think this could be the perfect project for me.
Firstly, however, I need a spell that will enable me to safely transplant parsley.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Sitcom and Food

Two thoughts really. Have you ever noticed that there's sitcom you and real you?

People in sitcoms often, in my experience, do things that are completely out of character, because it fits in with the story.
Sitcom you is the you that does things in the minds of other people, because it fits in with the story running in their head rather than your actual character.

Here's an example. A week or so ago, someone in the household (name withheld to protect the guilty)left their clean washing on top of the fridge, because said person spotted some interesting bread and got munching. Later, said person was mortified and asked whether I would now hate said person.

'How does this tie up with any experience you've ever had of her since being here?' S. Person was asked by A.N.Other,
'Er, not at all,'
'Well then,'

I was aware of this happening elsewhere today. Someone said that someone else said, that third someone said something that was entirely out of keeping with third person's character.
'So,' said I, 'maybe we should ask Third Person whether they said anything like that at all,' presumably there exists the sitcom version of Third Person.

Ok, hope that wasn't TOO cryptic.

Whilst in the States at the Static at the weekend, we watched the film, 'Food Inc.' Woah. You think you know what a load of shit we're being fed until you find out what a bunch of shit we're really being fed.
To be fair, this film is about the US Food industry, but frankly, I doubt anyone else's is squeaky clean.

Farmers who refused to 'upgrade' to the industry's new low standards, were simply put out of business.
Cattle - normally grass eaters - are being fed corn, which increases the e-coli in their stomachs by huge amounts. Cattle taken off corn feed and put back to grass for 5 days, were found to drop the percentage of e-coli in their guts by 80%. These cows were also living ankle deep in their own e-coli ridden shit. Farmers who refused to 'upgrade' to the industry's new low standards were...well, you know.

Corn was being mass produced on land that formerly had grown other crops. Farmers who tried to resist the major producers of resistant strains of corn seed ....yep, were sued into oblivion. High fructose corn syrup was being made into fillers for burgers, sausages, bloody everything. It's insane. In fact, my theory is that we'll discover that insanity itself is caused by HFCS.

I'm still working on that Zombies and corn syrup story.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Oh to be in England (and other spontaneous poetic outbursts)

...now that autumn's there,
and whoever wakes in England,
sees some morning, unaware,
that the lowest branch on the brushwood sheaf,
round the elm tree bole is without leaf,
and the chaffinch is hiding
from the orchard bough,
in England,

Yes, sorry, a spontaneous outburst of poorly-adapted Browning.

And actually, it's pretty amazing being in BC in the autumn. The leaves have mostly fallen, but they have been spectacular, the wind and rain have been mighty and right now, the sun is shining and filling the house with a last hurrah.
There are some pumpkins still lying in the fields, even after Hallowe'en, the pumpkin fields are fun to see, very seasonal.
Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday, being Remembrance Day.

In the Autumn, I am given to random bouts, not of melancholy, but of Romantic Poets, thus a quick burst of Shelley.

"O Wild, West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
thou from whose unseen presence the leaves, dead are driven,
Like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing.
Yellow and black and pale and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes,
O thou who chariotest to their dark, wintry bed,
The wingèd seeds,
Where they lie, cold and low, each like a corpse within its grave,
Until thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow her clarion o'er the dreaming earth,
And fill, (driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air),
With living hues and odours, plain and hill.

Oh, wild Spirit which art moving everywhere,
Destroyer and Preserver, hear, O, hear.

So, the Romantics, the Wordsmiths at Gorsemere. Bunch of chaps in frilly shirts, or something more useful?
Well, at first sniff, not really. The Romantics were a sort of antidote to the the grim reality of the Industrial Revolution, they believed that they had some godly duty - through their god-given gift of being able to write poetry - to bring to mere mortals, the beauty of the natural world. And often they did a damn fine job of it, so long as you don't mind the occasional heavy-handed metaphor, or overly-vivid imagery.

So is there an up side?
Well, yes, I think so. There is something very uplifting about the natural world, as one tramps across fields, the wind in one's hair and so forth, and the poetry of the Romantics can be very stirring, even spiritual, which, I suppose, was what they claimed for their art.

Of course, my own higher education was in French, and what came along as an antidote to the French Romantics, were a bunch of poets who concentrated on the seamier side of life, and generally through some kind of drug-induced stupor.
I always found Baudelaire's 'Fleurs du Mal' (the Flowers of Evil) really quite compelling in its association of sensuality with death and decay.
Unlike the Romantics, who interpreted the heavenly because we couldn't, Baudelaire took opium so that we didn't have to.

Rather disturbingly, I always felt he looked a tad like Hitler.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Trouble at t'Schloss

Same old, same old.

At the end of last week, Laurence either fell, or was knocked off his bike. It was the middle of the afternoon, he was coming back from swimming after work.

He wasn't aware of being hit, but he temporarily blacked out, and that's what makes me think he probably was.
When a pick-up truck went into the back of our car three years ago, it was as though the car had imploded. I didn't know what had happened for several seconds, I had, and have, no memory of the moment of impact.

Laurence went to the hospital and was treated. No bones were broken, but he was badly bruised and scraped and he's had to take time off work, since he can't lift anything.

It's quite bizarre, the level of aggression towards cyclists here.
It's not like cyclists are loved back home, but there is a grudging acceptance that, although they are a pain in the arse, they're there and that's all there is to it.

Here, considering most Canadians see themselves as an apathetic nation, the vitriol against cyclists is disturbing in its vehemence. And yes, at one end of the scale there is, perhaps akin to apathy, a thoughtless ignorance that simply doesn't even notice them on the road, or when knocked off their bikes, but at the other end, there is a very real and spiteful hatred.

In my soul, I hope that Laurence simply fell off, his rough treatment of his machine has resulted in many potential problems that could have caused this, the pedal, for example, is now missing. But I fear that someone has simply driven off, leaving a human being, my human being, lying injured in the road.
This year in Vancouver, five pedestrians have been run over and killed. The most recent was a woman of 85. Someone's mother, grandmother, friend, probably all of these.

Aside from damage to humans, the mechanical side of the Schloss is showing its age. The garage door has stopped working, a vital spring has broken and must be replaced at considerable cost. The furnace was serviced and the person brought to our attention what we were told by the home inspector when we bought the place, that the hot water boiler needs replacing, fortunately with a much more energy efficient one. Better now than when it floods the garage.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, as they say.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Credit Crunch

My credit card company are right royally pissing me off.

I am trying to be as paper free as possible and so have selected the paperless statements option and all was well until three months ago when they 'improved' their website. Now, when they e-mail to say that a statement is available and to go to their website, I do, it isn't, it won't open, I get an error message.

For three months in a row, I have then rung their number and said, 'yadayada, I need to be able to check my statement, blah, blah,' and every time they say the same thing, 'we'll send you a paper one,' and 'we're aware of the system error, we're working on it,'
Bollocks they do and bollocks they are.
Paper statements never arrive, system error continues.

So this month I tried another tack. I e-mailed. Their customer service e-mail addy starts with, 'talk to us,'
So I tried. And the to-and-fro boils down to something like this,

[I have opted for paperless statements and I get an error message every time I log on]
[You need to log on in Internet Explorer and set the language to Canadian English]
[I use Firefox, I've added Canadian English it doesn't work. In any case, why has everyone told me over three months that you are working on this?]
[You need to use Internet Explorer. Then we'll check that you are registered for paperless statements]
[I am and I don't use IE]
[I'm sorry it won't work in Firefox, you need to use IE]
[Why won't you answer my question? Why was I constantly being told that you were working on a system error if it's a browser conflict? It used to work, now it doesn't, it should have been fixed by now, assuming you have your IT department working on it and not your canteen staff]
[You need to open in IE]
[I don't use IE. I've opened in Canadian English AND Canadian French. Doesn't work. Incidentally, if I choose the French option, only the first page of the log-in questions are in French]
[I don't use IE!]
[Is it because I is black?]

(I didn't say the last one).

In the meantime, I can trick it into doing something and the whole thing has turned into a sad game, but no way am I submitting to the great Thule. Er...or internet explorer.
Not without an anaesthetic anyway.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


Parked outside Mark's Work Wearhouse with Whisky on my knees and at the steering wheel, reminded me of the time I was stopped at the lights at a major intersection and a pick-up truck crossed, with a very small kiddie sitting on the driver's lap. The child's hands were on the steering wheel, not the man's. (Probably using his phone).

Last night at Writers' Group, one person mentioned that people didn't have showers in their houses in the 1950s, they didn't come in until the sixties.

I don't remember them in Britain until the seventies. Oh, we had the blasted things at school all right. We didn't want to get our kit off and get into the showers, it was amazing how many girls had periods that lasted from one end of term to the other, the main excuse for not using them.
But at home, just baths and the plastic hairsprayer thingie whose rubber attachments fitted over the taps, and which perished after a certain time period.

In 1971, my parents took my sister and I to visit some friends of theirs in Denmark. They had been part of the ex-pat community with my parents in Nigeria.
Here we encountered several things that were about to become part of our lives, duvets, yoghurts and showers. The Danes in fact didn't like the idea of baths, they considered them unhygienic, because you were sitting in your own dirt. This didn't cut much ice with me, since we had done how detergents work in Chemistry or Physics or on TV or something, but I knew that the dirt particles all clustered around the detergent molecule, which held it safely away from the clean child.
Nonetheless, showers were on the way.

I'm not sure that our parents really believed that showers could get us properly clean. A shower was regarded as slightly better than an all-over wash with the flannel at the sink, but not as thoroughly cleansing of the adolescent scuzz as a proper bath, which was still required a couple of times a week, to get rid of the build-up of shower residue.
The proof of this was surely the tide mark around the bath, which must itself be scrubbed off. Evidence of cleanliness was the dirt left behind.

The other thing I learnt last night made my jaw drop. It seems that tickets to see Sarah Palin speak on 13th October cost $500.
I'm sure she was worth every penny.
AND...my nose just grew longer.

Monday, 1 November 2010

All Hallows' Eve

Yesterday, being the first Hallowe'en the Schloss has joined in with, Alex and Seth had carved a pumpkin, decorated the front steps, and waited with their treat-sized choccie bars, for kids to arrive. Instead, we came back from the Static and told them to turn the porch light on, at which point, children, cunningly disguised as teenagers, came to call.

At the weekend, at the Static, I had a mildly Hallowe'eny experience.
The outdoor swimming pools bar one, and jacuzzis are now closed for the winter. Over the family pool, a roof has been put up, one of those jobbies that is kept up by air being pumped into it. Several years old, it has a certain skuzziness, but hey, there are not many hardy souls left willing to swim now, so two weekends running, I've had the pool to myself for almost the entire swim.
The lighting is dim, like having a couple of table lamps in a swimming pool sized room.
On Saturday, I was finishing my allotted number of lengths, when at one end of the pool, I could see three shadows trudging along, elongated by the subdued lighting from inside the pool area.
It was decidedly spooky, and I hastened my pace, so that I was at the end of my last length when parents and a medium sized boy came in. The parents sat on the chairs around the pool and the boy stood shivering and complaining in the shallow water.

Later, back at the Static, the wind picked up and howled disconsolately through the trees, followed by lashing rain.
Somewhere in all of that, an eco-warrior spirit came and disconnected her next-door's ancient fairy lights again.

My money's on the fairies anyway.